27th Day, The (1957)

“We cannot hope for disaster — we merely expect it.”

27th Day Poster

Synopsis:
An alien (Arnold Moss) whose species is seeking a new planet to inhabit gathers five diverse humans — a British woman (Valerie French), an American journalist (Gene Barry), a German scientist (George Voskovec), a Soviet soldier (Azemat Janti), and a Chinese peasant (Marie Tsiena) — and hands them each a container of capsules designed to destroy all human existence. Will Earthlings be able to prevent themselves from mutual self-destruction, or will humanity prevail?

Genres:

Review:
This taut sci-fi parable remains a smartly scripted B-level thriller, one which effectively explores humans’ potential for both beneficial collaboration and destructive antagonism. After being introduced to the basic premise of the situation — each capsule-owning human is the sole person capable (through mind power) of opening the container, which will deactivate upon their death — we eagerly watch as tensions mount, and the 27 days allotted for this alien-inspired life-or-death experiment tick away. Screenwriter John Mantley boldly kills off one of the five capsule-owners right away, then shifts swiftly between the other protagonists’ scenarios, neatly weaving their stories together into a climactic showdown against time and one another. Sure, there’s an obligatory romance (between French and Barry), and the final solution comes across as a tad too convenient — but the majority of this ride is well worth it.

Note: Interestingly, DVD Savant is nearly vitriolic in his distaste for this film, which he claims possesses a “rather embarrassingly bone-headed anti-Commie statement”; I disagree. Sure, the Soviet dictator (Stefan Schnabel) is portrayed as an autocratic, Stalin-esque villain, but it’s made abundantly clear that Janti is being bullied and manipulated, and that his compatriots are equally innocent — so isn’t this actually a remarkably sane and humane perspective on Cold War realities?

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Effective B-level sets
    27th Day Sets1
    27th Day Sets2
  • A compelling script:

    “People hate because they fear, and they fear anything they don’t understand — which is almost everything.”

Must See?
Yes, as a finely crafted B-level thriller.

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One Response to “27th Day, The (1957)”

  1. A once-must for its unique premise.

    ~though it still comes off slightly clumsy and (by nature of the premise) talky. ~which is a shame because you sense that a more compelling film could have developed from the central idea.

    Instead, what we’re left with is something “B” indeed. I became curious as to what the film might have been like if it had had a more creative/clever team working with a better budget.

    And the love angle, though slight, could have been dropped altogether.

    I do like the ending, though.

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